Monday, April 27, 2009


Star Trek as we know it simply would not exist today if it weren’t for STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN. The entire film franchise, including the $150 million dollar reboot hitting theatres two weeks from now and every show from Star Trek: The Next Generation on owe their very existence to one of the single greatest, most influential sequels in the history of film.

Contrary to popular belief not all sequels suck. In fact it’s that very idea that led us to this current “Feature of the Month” thread. For every MEN IN BLACK II, CADDYSHACK II, JAWS 3-D and BLUES BROTHERS 2000 there’s the likes of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III, BAD BOYS II, THE DARK KNIGHT and ALIENS, films that don’t just do their predecessors justice but in many cases give them a run for their money as superior films. Out of each and every single part II that’s ever been conceived however, none has ever so roundly trounced it’s originator as THE Star Trek movie to end all Star Trek movies.

For those in need of a history lesson the original Star Trek television series never really lit the world on fire. In fact the show and it’s small but ravenous fan base fought tooth and nail to stay on the air until it was canceled after its third season. Had it not been for the cult following the show gained throughout years of syndication there’s no doubt the show would be looked at as nothing more than a kitschy piece of baby boomer nostalgia, mentioned in the same breath as Space 1999 and Buck Rodgers. Instead the passionate fervor for the franchise spurred Paramount to produce a $43 million big screen film that well… to be blunt, SUCKED!

I don’t care how die-hard a Star Trek fan they are you will be hard pressed to find anyone that really likes STAR TREK: THE “MOTIONLESS” PICTURE. It’s boring, uninspired and did absolutely nothing to attract new fans or really retain the ones that had stuck by the franchise all along. Sure it made some money but for the most part it did very little to further engender the legacy of Gene Roddenberry’s creation to anyone but the most die-hard of Trekkies. Filled with seemingly never-ending, money shots of the Enterprise and a story compiled from the remnants of a new Star Trek show that was never to be, the original motion picture succeeded in sucking out what little life the franchise had left in it. Which is what makes THE WRATH OF KHAN such a strange, happy little miracle.

Made for half the budget of the original film and based on a long forgotten episode of the original series THE WRATH OF KHAN did the unthinkable. It addressed the aging of its core players and killed off one of the cornerstones of the entire franchise. In doing so though, it brought something to the Star Trek universe that had never existed; gravitas! In a little over 2 hours director Nicholas Meyer and screenwriter Jack B. Sowards gave Star Trek the since of relevance, intelligence and just plain geek inspiring awesomeness that fans associate with it to this day.

Most of what every Trekker loves about this venerable sci-fi franchise got its start in this movie. This one film took Rodenberry’s ideas and vision and gave them a scope and depth that had never existed up until that point. In doing so they created not just the single greatest Star Trek story ever told but in my humble opinion one of the single greatest sci-fi stories ever told.

Watching this film for the umpteenth time last night I was once again struck by just how brilliant and flat out perfect the film is. Sure some of the costumes, hair styles and effects are dated but at its core KHAN is a poignant tale about growing old, the consequences of one’s action and the ultimate sacrifice that is friendship. It is as epic and sweeping as STAR WARS and as intimate and effecting as the works of David Mamet or Tom Stoppard. STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN didn’t just raise the bar it completely reset it in a way that redefined one of the most beloved franchises in the history of pop culture.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Soloist

I hope I am not alone in saying that I am ecstatic that The Soloist is finally coming out on Friday; considering that the film was due out initially in November I think it is long overdue. Honestly, while I am a Robert Downey Jr. junkie I have to say that he is not the primary reason I want to see The Soloist - Joe Wright is.

Joe Wright has not been working in the world of feature film for that long. As a director Wright hit the scene with 2005’s Pride & Prejudice. This was a film from a first-time director and it went on to garner four Oscar nominations. None of these nominations were for the director himself, but that is impressive nonetheless.

Wright did not experience a sophomore slump. In 2007 Wright followed up Pride & Prejudice with another English period piece in Atonement.

Atonement lit the critics and audiences on fire. When awards season rolled around Atonement walked away with an Oscar for Best Score and six other nominations including Best Picture. The film was just as visually stunning as Pride & Prejudice, had some of the most amazing performances of the year, and deserved the attention it garnered.

From the instant the trailer hit I was mesmerized and I can’t quite tell you why, other than I am a sucker for a visually appealing, character driven piece – and I think this movie is going to be that. The greatest commonality between Wrights previous films is the strength of the performances he gets out of his actors and I cannot wait to see the caliber of performance Downey and Jamie Foxx deliver; the men are two of the best actors in Hollywood today and I am sure that they will be spellbinding.

Needless to say I will be at the movies Friday night, and I really hope that the movie is as good as I hope, I have been waiting for it since November…plus I really want an excuse to buy the poster.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Heroes and Villians!

A few weeks ago Entertainment Weekly published their list of the top 20 heroes and villains of all time. While their list covered the gamut of everything from literature to T.V. I couldn’t help but disagree with some of their cinematic selections and as I’m wont to do I decided to create a list of my own. What follows is my list of the top 20 heroes and villains in the history of cinema. Agree / disagree? Let me hear about it. That’s why doing lists like this are so much fun. Oh and just to make things easy I did these alphabetically, how they rank against each other is open to interpretation.


He stares hopelessness in the face and never lets it get the better of him. Along his journey he improves the lives of his fellow inmates, screws over every bad guy in the end and gets them beer and a tax break.

Good? Bad? He’s the guy with the gun and a chainsaw for a hand. Hail to the King baby.

The epitome of what man can make of himself. Unstoppable, unrelenting, scary beyond words. Thank God he’s a good guy.

Brash, bold, ballsy… THE MOTHER F’IN MAN!

Go ahead make his day. And by that be a bad guy dumb enough to go up against him and his .357 Magnum.

THE greatest heroine of all time. A beautiful, caring, motherly woman who can kick your ass 10 ways from Sunday and still face an alien queen.

The dude bags Princess Leia, has a Wookie and the Millennium Falcon. Nuff said!

Faced with insurmountable odds and a world that hates, fears and deifies him all at once he’s the only one brave enough to take on someone so scary they don’t even like saying his name.

The family that fights crime together stays together. When this beautifully created family works together there’s nothing they can’t accomplish. If that’s not heroism I don’t know what is.

He’s got a whip, a hat, a killer right hook and even though he’s “Making this up as he goes” he saves the day every time.

The greatest spy of all time and the action hero that paved the way for EVERYONE else.

Pot heads and perverts? Yes. Savers of the world and pretty much everyone’s bacon in one way or another in all the Kevin Smith films? Yes again.

Always the wrong guy, in the wrong place, at the wrong time but with enough bullets and “artistically interpreted” Roy Rogers quotes to get him through anything.

It’s not easy being green but Kermit never lets that or ANYTHING else get him or his wacky friends down. There are few more noble characters in all of fiction than this amphibian.

She’s WAY pregnant, lives in Fargo, her husband’s a painter and she still doesn’t let any of that get in the way of her dogged quest for justice. You betcha!

The heroine that started it all for so many boys and girls around the world. Plus she looks darn good in a gold bikini.

One of my personal faves from one of the most underrated films of all time. The dude can do anything with the rocket pack he finds and he chooses to save his girl and fight Nazis. Well done.

He started off as the working man’s hero and evolved into an irreplaceable symbol of Americana.

She not only gives birth to mankind’s last hope but then becomes crazy, psycho, butch badass lady to defend him and turn him into the greatest military leader in history.

Perhaps the most noble creature in the history of fiction. Not as cool or badass as Batman but iconic and legendary none-the-less.


He thinks humans are a disease and he wants to be the cure. That’s some evil, sunglass wearing Penicillin if you ask me.

Another one of those forces of nature. Like a flesh and blood Terminator with an air-driven cattle gun.

The sole reason millions of people worldwide (My sister included) are terrified of going in the ocean.

She wants to make puppies into coats! PUPPIES!

The personification of greed and all it’s capable of.

OK, sure there was a lot that made him what he was and he was kind of a wuss growing up but until you knew all that he was simply the scariest, most menacing thing ever put on

A charming conversationalist and dinner guest... unless you’re on the menu. Just don’t serve Farva beans and you might be fine.

Villainy has never looked so calm, cool, collected or well dressed.

He’s insanely brilliant and just plain insane. He is almost quite literally an unstoppable force of nature. Death, mayhem and murder are like a trip to Disneyland for him.

The dude wants to kill toons AND build freeways. Can you think of anything more despicable?

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” The second was creating one of the most diabolical, ingenious villains in the history of cinema.

“It is very cold in space” and so is the dish of revenge Khan, in all his plastic chested glory relishes serving.

The original movie monster slasher. Silent, deadly, unstoppable and ripped-off more than almost any character in film history.

He feels no pain, shows no remorse and is played by Gary Busey! Creepy, VERY creepy.

Sure the dude has some serious mommy issues but that doesn’t make him any less terrifying or the things he does any less gruesome.

Hands down the single most evil female in the history of film. Don’t believe me look at what she does to Billy.

They’re both cowardly evil smucks that enjoy torture and killing brides. How could I pick just one?

He wants to wipe out EVERYTHING that’s good, including the little dudes that just like to eat, drink and grow hair on their feet.

“It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”

THEY REFUSE TO SAY HIS NAME! Seriously how badass scary is that?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

FotM: Brains over brawn? Let's hope!

Last year the 4 smartest, most compelling AND most entertaining films of the year were all released between the months of May and August. That’s right, last summer movie season we saw the return of a mixture of brains and brawn to our multiplexes and audiences took notice to the tune of one of the biggest years in the history of movies. I know many people pooh-pooh the upcoming movie season because they feel like any trip to the theatre over the next couple of months will require them leaving their brains at the door. With movies like IRON MAN, WALL-E, THE DARK KNIGHT and TROPIC THUNDER dominating the cineplex’s last year I’ve begun hoping it was the beginning of a much welcome and needed trend, not an exception to it. What follows are just some of the films that give me hope that amidst the mindless insanity of the likes of TRANSFORMERS 2, LAND OF THE LOST and G.I. JOE (All of which I’ll admit I’m looking forward to) 2009 will continue the trend of films that dazzle the eyes and the mind alike.

WOLVERINE: X-MEN: THE LAST STAND sucked, this one could easily go either way but the rumors that Fox realized they had crap on their hands and allowed Hugh Jackman and the director to go back and do extensive reshoots to make it far more badass gives me hope.

STAR TREK: I’m not going to argue about this because I think the movie will make my point for me. Look at what Abrams did with the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE franchise. Guaranteed this is the film EVERYONE will be talking about.

THE BROTHERS BLOOM: BRICK, Rian Johnson’s first film is one of the best debuts in recent memory. It looks like he’s totally switching gears, yet still knocking it out of the park with this one.

TERMINATOR SALVATION: My sister and I heard McG talk about this thing at Comic-Con. The moment he opened his mouth we realized the dude is WAY smarter than his name implies and that this will most likely blow everyone’s expectations out of the water.

DRAG ME TO HELL: This will probably be one of the biggest sleeper hits of the summer. It’s Sam Raimi first foray into the genre that put him on the map. How could it not be great?

UP: Pixar = brilliance. I’m pretty much already reserving a spot on my Top 10 list for this one.

THE HANGOVER: The other probable sleeper hit of the summer. The trailer makes me bust out laughing every time I see it.

THE HURT LOCKER: All who have seen it say Kathryn Bigelow has made a sickly intense film experience and reestablishes her as THE female director in the industry… until cough, Megan Welch, cough, comes along.

PUBLIC ENEMIES: How nice of them to release an Oscar nominee this early in the year.

BRUNO: BORAT was one of the best satires of the last decade. Word on the street is that Sacha Baron Cohen has topped it with his second film.

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE: The further along this film series gets the deeper and more moving and intelligent the films get. It doesn’t look like this one will be breaking that trend.

FUNNY PEOPLE: Judd Apatow is a genius and just the trailer alone for this movie convinces me this will probably be his best film to date.

DISTRICT 9: The dude that SHOULD be in the midst of making a HALO movie at the moment, instead has this very smart, timely piece of sci-fi coming our way.

INGLORIOUS BASTARDS: Quentin Tarantino, WWII, if all home runs were this easy to predict baseball would be pretty boring.

Maybe I’m mistaken but each and every one of those films listed above was made by an artist, people with true artistic vision, not a committee looking at demo numbers and sales charts. Could some of them suck? You betcha! Could some of them be nothing more than mindless ways to wile away a hot summer afternoon? Absolutely, but there’s a lot more brains and talent attached to projects I’ve just mentioned than I can think of in recent years. As we roll into September and kids start going back to school and the “real” movies start coming out again, I think these will be the films that will determine whether or not last years brainy batch of blockbusters were a fluke or the start of something beautiful. Here’s hoping for later.

FotM: Summer's Coming!

For me the love of movies doesn’t stem from a specific film, but the entire pantheon of films themselves. While I may like some films a lot more than others there is nothing like sitting in a darkened theatre and watching a movie flash before your eyes. The summer may not hold the movies that I consider the technically best of the year, but it traditionally holds the most entertaining movies of the year – the kinds of movies that drew me to the theatre before I knew how to define a film from Bergman, Coppola or Altman – the movies that the average moviegoer rearranges their weekend to see and tops the box office charts with astronomical numbers.

When I look at the summer charts it is really hard for me to narrow down to one film that I am excited about seeing more than the others; May in particular is a huge month this year with Wolverine, Star Trek and Terminator: Salvation crammed into the first official summer month. Still, I think that I have to say more than anything else I want to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in July.

Harry Potter gets my final vote not because I am more excited for it than any of the other films I have mentioned, but because by the time July rolls around the film will be eight months overdue! The Half-Blood Prince was slated to come out in November, as the fall is typically when the Harry Potter films are released (with the exception of Order of the Phoenix) but in July of 2008, right after director David Yates announced that editing was completed Warner Brothers announced that due to the WGA strike and the lack of a July tent-pole The Half-Blood Prince would be moved into the same 2009 weekend that The Dark Knight occupied in 2008.

The problem with this little announcement is in the second argument.

Harry Potter wasn’t moved because of the writers strike and a hole in the summer schedule, it was moved because in July of this past year The Dark Knight creamed any and all box office competition and continued to break box office records until its release on DVD. Warner’s thinks that The Half-Blood Prince will make more money in the summer than the fall. I’ve already written an entry about what I think of the box office shifts this past year, but I still hold that this is one of the most absurd.

My grievances with Warner’s decision aside I must say that I am looking forward to part six of the Potter installment because not only is it a game-changer, but it is by far one of the most emotional and gut-wrenching books of the entire J.K. Rowling series. I also think that after cycling through three other directors Columbus and his producers finally found the perfect performer in David Yates. Yates began his work on the series with Order of the Phoenix and will continue through the end of the franchise; he is a powerful, competent director who has finally brought the books to the screen almost exactly as I saw them in my head.

I hope that this summer will be a great time to escape into movies that will excite my imagination, and maybe a few that will stimulate my intellect. Right now I am incredibly excited that I get to see The Soloist this month – another fall movie that got pushed onto the 2009 calendar…but April 24th doesn’t quite count as a summer film.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

FotM: Wishing It Were Somehow Fall Again

Boo hoo, boo hoo, the summer movie season is almost upon us. While fanboys and fangirls across the country are getting their pup tents ready for the sidewalk in front of the theater playing the big movie and people everywhere are already loading up on enough caffeine to power a small country to stay awake through midnight screenings of new summer movies, I’m wishing that it was fall again. I used to get into the summer movie season, I really did. But, after the disappointment of the last few years, there’s just not much to be excited about.

I know, I know. My compatriots and fellow contributors to this blog will no doubt talk to you quite effusively about the number of upcoming summer films that they simply cannot wait for.
To be honest with you, I’m only looking forward to a few films this summer. Who knows? Maybe they’ll be awesome. However, I don’t have very high hopes for the remainder of the summer movie season. Let’s take a stroll through a few of big up-and-comers and I’ll give you my rundown.

X: Men Origins: Wolverine - This looks like it could be a very good addition to the franchise. This is encouraging, due in no small part to the fact that Brett Ratner had taken the X-Men series for a drag in the mud with the awful X-Men: The Last Stand. I understand that Bryan Singer’s heart was set on doing Superman Returns, but you’re telling me that BRETT RATNER was the best choice that they had? BRETT RATNER? Mr. Rush Hour? Really? Hopefully, X-Men Origins: Wolverine will result in a rebound for the franchise. We’ll see.

Star Trek – BLASPHEMY. Pure and simple. Star Trek, at its heart, has always been about ideas. It’s never been about blowing things up or seeing skin or whatever, it’s about ideas. I agree that the franchise needs a kick in the pants. This just ain’t the way to do it. By giving control of the franchise to J.J. Abrams, a non-fan, the powers that be have committed a gargantuan blunder. He might think that there’s something exciting about rewinding everything and going back and seeing Kirk and Spock’s first mission together. I do not. I could care less about their first mission together. I would very much like to see what happens NEXT in the Star Trek universe. There are a multitude of characters and storylines that could be combined to make a great Star Trek film. J.J. Abrams might think that there’s something exhilarating about seeing Spock struggle with human emotions. Well, J.J., you might not know this, being a non-fan and all, but we’ve been there and done that. TONS of times. He might think that there’s something cool about seeing Uhura in various stages of undress. I’m revolted. Uhura is an icon. I think of her on a similar plane as my mother . . . I don’t need to see that. I don’t want to see that. J.J. might think that seeing everything blowing up all over the place is cool and exciting. Dude, those movies have already been made. They’re called Star Wars films. That’s why Star Trek doesn’t have the wide appeal that Star Wars does. Where Star Wars had the Saturday morning matinee feel down pat, Star Trek has always been about ideas. A great Star Trek movie like Star Trek: First Contact isn’t just a great film because of how exciting and visually dynamic it is. It’s also great because it delves into what it’s like for a man to face the deepest, darkest part of himself and what he’ll do to save the life of one of his closest friends. J.J. doesn’t get that. I do. As if all of this wasn’t enough, J.J. has supposedly decided that he needs to mess with the Star Trek timeline too. For the love of god, can you not leave me with ANYTHING, J.J.? This movie will probably make a ton of money and a sequel will probably get greenlit in the second week of release, but I won’t be there. Abrams, how would you like it if I went and took something that meant a ton to you and screwed with it until it was almost unrecognizable? Would you? That’s what you’re doing, and I can speak from this side of it. It’s awful. I hope you’re not happy.

Angels and Demons – I’m kind of up in the air on this one. I never saw The Da Vinci Code, and this one does look interesting. Still though, sometimes seeing movies that set high energy storylines in established institutions is a bit of a turn off. You wake up the next morning and everything’s the same in the world and end up feeling let down. Or you spend the whole time in the theater thinking about how fake it is and how you’ll wake up the next morning with nothing changed. Get what I mean?

Terminator: Salvation – Has a summer movie ever looked more uninteresting? I’m not exactly a Terminator fan, but what’s supposed to be compelling about a guy who’s supposed to hold the fate of mankind in his hand having to work with a compassionate killer robot while trying to keep his relationship with a pretty girl afloat? It’s not like we haven’t seen this before. What’s more, what I’ve seen of the film’s color palette from the trailer is nasty. How many different shades of grayish brown can there be? In addition, is there some good reason that Christian Bale is the new face of the franchise? He’s already not very compelling as Batman, and I’m not thoroughly convinced that he’s capable of carrying the Terminator franchise from here on out. I understand that Arnold can’t do the films anymore since he’s busy trying to govern the state of California and all, but he sort of IS the franchise.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian – Are you kidding me? I have 4,003 better ways to spend an hour and a half.

Up - With Up, I’m hoping that Pixar can rebound after WALL-E, a lovely but unlively public service announcement. The trailer looks good, so hopefully this is a harbinger of good things to come.

The Taking of Pelham 123 – This looks like it could be either really good or really bad. I’m hoping for the former. Denzel Washington vs. John Travolta? Now that’s got possibilities!

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: I had no interest in watching a bunch of machines beat up a bunch of other machines the first time around. My feelings have not changed.

Public Enemies – This feels like a fall movie trying to sneak its way into the summer marquee. I’m quite looking forward to this one. The combination of Michael Mann, Johnny Depp, and the story of John Dillinger makes this one a must-see for me. Heck, just Mann and Depp together would make this a must-see. I’m also pleased that Marion Cotillard has a major role. She’s a terrific actress that deserves more work. There might not have been a ton of folks that saw La Vie En Rose, but, oh man, are they missing out! Now, THAT is a great movie. Sorry, getting sidetracked . . . Unfortunately, when I saw the trailer for Public Enemies, the sound mix was terrible and I had a really hard time understanding Depp’s dialogue. I hope that it’s not indicative of the mix that’ll be used in the final film. Here’s hoping Public Enemies lives up to its potential. It’s got LOADS.

Bruno – No thanks.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – I’m not going to watch any of the films until I’ve read all of the books, so that rules this one out for me.

G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra – I couldn’t care less.

Inglorious Basterds – Tarantino is back!!! This one looks very interesting. Now, I’m concerned that it might be too violent for my sometimes delicate sensibilities, but I definitely want to see this. The question is, will this be one of QT’s talky, loopy, violent movies a la Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill, Vol. 2 or a straightforward bloodbath a la Kill Bill, Vol. 1? The casting of Brad Pitt is really bizarre too. When I think of people that QT would want to work with, Pitt’s not the guy that comes to mind. However, knowing his track record, it’s probably a really good idea. Tarantino’s one of those filmmakers that, unless you absolutely can’t handle the subject, when he makes a new film, you don't ask a ton of questions. You just pack up and go.

So that’s what I think of the summer movie season. After having my hopes dashed year after year, I just think it’s better to keep ‘em at a minimum. I’m always willing (and hoping) to be surprised. We’ll see.

Let the hate mail begin . . .